Sanjeev Kohli
IMPACT INVESTING

Ryan Else

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Founding Partner – Glowfish Ventures

Using third parties for objectivity – Sanjeev Kohli

“I think you have to almost try to think about stuff from a 10,000 foot level”

ABOUT

Sanjeev is a Founding Member at Glowfish, a tech-focused VC cum business builder based in Dubai. Glowfish’s ventures include CarSwitch.com –Used Cars Sales / Purchase Platform, oladoc.com – Digital Health Marketplace, ServiceMarket.com – Home Services Marketplace, TapTheMarket.com – Professional Services Marketplace and MobiMatter.com – B2B Digital Telco Platform. Glowfish’s ventures are currently operational in UAE, KSA and Pakistan.

Before Glowfish, Sanjeev was a Partner at McKinsey & Company (2004-2016) where he advised clients across Asia, Middle-East and Africa on Sales & Marketing, Strategy, M&A and Regulatory topics. In his last role at McKinsey, Sanjeev led McKinsey’s Telecom and High Tech Practice in Middle-East and North Africa.

Sanjeev received an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from University of California at Berkeley (2004) and B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Delhi (2001).

REQUEST INTRODUCTION Arrow

THE FULL INTERVIEW

Sanjeev Kohli

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the supporters fun ask an investor I’m your host Jeffery Potvin and let’s please welcome Sanjeev Kohli founding partner of glowfish Ventures as our investor for today welcome Sanjeev it’s a real pleasure having you join us today.

Sanjeev: Thank you JP be excited to be here

Jeffery: Well there’s a couple of things that I’m excited to dive in mostly about your background because I think it’s really exciting when you have a background like McKinsey background because not everybody gets the opportunity to spend as much time as they have you have in a career that’s in working in such fast-paced Tech m a sales such an amazing background and I know you and I have chatted about this in the past and you got to work on some pretty amazing and cool projects so we’re going to dive into that but I guess the way we like to start the show is if you can give us kind of a deep dive background from the schooling all the way through all the great things that you’ve done and including obviously the The Venture that you’ve been working on for the better part of the last six years if you can share a bit about that and then one thing about you that nobody would know now.

Sanjeev: That’s a lot to ask all right let’s let’s go down the memory lane a bit um so I am Indian as as you already mentioned grew up in Delhi um went to uh one of the engineering schools in India also in Delhi it’s called IIT Delhi spent uh four years of my line learning you know my life learning about electrical engineering and computer science uh then I did a little bit of uh research um and uh you know quite an interesting uh sort of detour from a typical career uh I ended up working in future Technologies division of British Telecom where um we did you know amongst many amazing things we were the first ones to do tele handshake uh so we were you know we were the folks who uh sort of probably transmitted the sense of touch over internet for the first time um ever and this was about 20 year old years ago uh so yeah that’s one of the things that not many people know about me I’m answering that already because I want to go in a chronological order uh post that went to Berkeley uh continued my engineering career realized I was probably not the best engineer uh you know amongst the skill sets that I thought I had engineering wasn’t wasn’t at the top of it so uh left engineering joined the business World went to McKinsey spent about uh 13 years had an amazing career uh worked all over the world yeah from North America and Europe Middle East Asia Etc and for the last seven years I’ve been building Tech Ventures out here in the Middle East.

Jeffery: Amazing and I guess to take a step back to when you’re working on the McKinsey side um you obviously got to work with a lot of big Tech but I think kind of where the interest for me is to explore what it’s like to be working inside of a business like this because I I’m going to say that it seems exciting for someone who’s never been in there I have friends that have worked inside of these obviously these big massive consulting firms can you share a little bit about what it’s like like what is the environment you’re getting pulled into massive businesses to solve problems and it’s not just one person going in to fix it there can be 100 to 2 000 people going in just to re-haul a business can you kind of share a little bit about what that experience details and and why that brings so much value to your background.

Sanjeev: Sure um no I think you already summed up uh some of the some of the you know insights I would say one would draw after spending time in there right um there are times when you do need you know an army of 100 to 200 to 300 people to actually just turn around a business in Mammoth business and McKinsey like many other big consulting firms work with a lot of top Fortune 500 type companies you know big corporations and it’s not it’s not easy for you know three to five to ten people to actually change the direction of course uh of some of these businesses so you do need at times literally an army to actually drive change not you know just in the strategy but in terms of how do you basically align the entire organization to drive the strategy forward and and uh and uh you know uh move in a particular way sometimes across not just cities but countries and sometimes across continents as well so uh yeah um you know if I were to describe what it is like uh to work at McKinsey uh or one of the top consulting firms I would say at least and this is true for the the first few years it’s a bit like drinking water from the fire hose I know it sounds a little bit cliche but that’s probably the best analogy you are learning so much you are absorbing so much you are overwhelmed with responsibility and of course you know uh uh the the implications of some of uh some of your actions are quite significant uh so you know at least in the first few years it can be quite overwhelming you know just to be candid and you know I I literally felt like I was a hiring mistake later on I realized many people felt that way so that was a bit reassuring and uh somehow I survived for over a decade uh but the learning never stopped you know it probably did not feel as overwhelming as it felt in the first few years kind of it is also you know you get used to the expectation so uh build a bit the muscle to to deal with that level of stress and deal with that level of uh uh you know High intense uh you know pace of work uh but the learning never truly never stops so very grateful for my background at McKinsey uh you know learned a great deal about how institutions work how people work you know how businesses actually create value and uh you know equally importantly learned a whole bunch of things that one shouldn’t do you know to uh to preserve value to make sure that you don’t end up destroying values just trying to basically Port some of those learnings over uh and make sure we do things right uh in our own Ventures.

Jeffery: It’s interesting when you mentioned preserved values so when you’re going into these businesses are they coming to you with a problem that they need to solve are they coming with stagnation and they need something to generate Revenue are they coming with um legal issues that have come up that they need to Pivot the business because uh they’re in patent infringements what are some of the kind of typical areas that you saw that were being faced that you then had to come in and solve like obviously there’s a lot of work that you can put in it sounds like it’s continuous work and you’re always grinding out probably new models and new theories and driving that strategy forward but what were kind of the major impetus of what that shift needed to happen inside the business and why.

Sanjeev: Uh so you know it’s it’s it’s it’s a loaded question uh unfortunately cannot give a simple answer to that you know uh often uh you know if you look at practitioners at McKinsey they would over period Drive develop some sort of specialization or some sort of focus uh area uh and that could be functional that would be in you know uh industry specific um but if you were to say okay like take like take a step back you know what kind of problems do these corporations would face uh when when you’re working with them as a consultant you know it’s the whole Spectrum so some of them are struggling on the growth side some of them are struggling with uh you know uh on the cost side of it some of them are struggling because their business models are getting disrupted by you know super agile super Nimble super fast attackers yo